2 Pulse Rating
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese
Directed by Chris Miller and Raman Hui
Unlike Kermit, it’s easy being green for Shrek. Through his first two films, the ornery ogre grossed an estimated $1.4 billion worldwide. What started as an imaginative revision on diluted fairy tales, the Shrek films have since devolved into an innocuous world of action figures and corporate tie-ins.
Similar to an antiestablishment rock band selling a bazillion records, Shrek the Third, regrettably, reeks of the homogenized mediocrity it’s supposed to be rallying against. Those expecting another creative Shrek yarn will be disappointed by this halfhearted, smug installment. It’s safe to say Shrek the Third is far, far away from the inspired pleasures of the first two films.
The tale opens with Shrek (Myers) and Fiona (Diaz) inheriting the crown from Fiona’s dying father (Cleese). Shrek wants nothing of it, so he sets off with friends Donkey (Murphy) and Puss-in-Boots (Banderas) to find the backup heir.
The trio arrive at a boarding school where they convince a gangly teenage version of King Arthur (weakly voiced by Justin Timberlake) to take the throne.
Meanwhile, in Far, Far Away Land, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) has persuaded all the villainous fairy-tale characters, such as Captain Hook, to help him stage a coup. Fiona and friends are captured, so Shrek and his crew bumble their way back to her rescue.
While the computer animation in Shrek the Third is impressive, the creative team behind this entry forgoes the elements that made the earlier films distinctive.
Gone are the litany of pop-culture references and satirical gags. Shrek and Fiona are nearly devoid of their brutish ogre attributes. Because of the gaunt plot, the action quickly wanes. Instead of building to a rousing conclusion, the climax cultivates into a trite speech on the importance of benevolence. (Coupled with Spiderman 3, when did summer blockbusters come equipped with therapy sessions?)
Don’t be mistaken, though. The filmmakers of Shrek the Third aren’t as inane as their film. The Shrek name is now an institution unto itself and has been branded in every way imaginable. This installment is guaranteed to earn a tidy fortune. But, it’s time this franchise takes a good, long look at itself in the mirror.
Like the vain queen in Snow White, Shrek, in a sad and ironic twist, might be surprised to see he is no longer the fairest of them all.